While at the NOTW, he was responsible for covering the fortunes of Liverpool FC, later switching to write about Newcastle United.
Grantham Target reporter Adrian Curtis was editor of Match when Ray worked there in the 1980s.
He said: “Ray, given his young age, was an old school journalist. He never gave up on a story and under (NOTW sports editor) Mike Dunn he was at his best.
“On Match, his tenacious attitude got him exclusive after exclusive. I took him under my wing and he called me his mentor until the very end, a tag I was a little embarrassed about, but he would have none of it.
“As a friend he always put others first. I know this because my wife, in her wisdom, bought an art deco walnut sideboard which weighed as much as the titanic. Ray helped me to get into the lounge by using broom handles as rollers.
“I gave up on numerous occasions saying it was impossible but Ray would have none of it. He would not give up, like he would never give up on a story. The testament to his determination is the fact that it still sits in our lounge today.
“That is the kind of guy he was. But much more importantly he was an excellent football journalist who tried to break real stories – none of the digital re-hashing of today. He had a contacts book second to none.”
After 13 years working at the NOTW, Ray lost his job there but had recently begun writing for various football websites.
Away from work, he was a supporter of Watford FC who was “fiercely proud” of his Irish roots.
Ray died alone of pneumonia in his father’s house, who himself is in hospital, and was found by his brother Wayne.
Adrian added: “It was fun to be in his company when he was on form and I don’t think any of his bosses would have a bad word to say about the exclusives he brought to them. To lose him to a bout of pneumonia is just so awful at such a young age.
“Ray had a good heart and was exceptional in football journalism and, like most people taken so early, he didn’t deserve it.
“A light has gone out in my life. He consistently called me his mentor but in reality, he taught me so much too. Football journalism has lost one of the best exponents of the art of getting real stories.
“It was a privilege to have worked with him and an honour to have called him my friend. I will miss him greatly.”